Sunday, April 21, 2019

Learning How To Shave @ 56

I shaved my face for the first time in prison. So I didn't have a father around or the Internet to help me figure out how. And not long after the first time I shaved my face I was shaving my legs, and yet still had to figure it all out by myself. And now that I'm 56, and in prison for the rest of my life, I'm still figuring out how to shave.

I thought I had it down pat. When I lived in Fargo, I figured out the best way to appear "clean-shaven" on a daily bases was to shave "down" (with the hair grain) each morning on weekdays (workdays), and then only shave "up" (against the grain) on Friday, so I'd be extra smooth for the weekend "fun". I did it like this because if I tried to shave against the grain every day I'd get irritated skin and razor burn. So I thought I had it all figured out.

Here on death row I don't need to appear clean-shaven at all, but I still don't like the itch and hassle of having a beard, so I've been shaving "against the grain" just once or twice a week, which I can do without the skin irritation, and which gives me the personally pleasing "extra smooth" mug once or twice a week for my own gratification (i.e. it "feels nice").

Then the other day while flipping channels I saw part of a popular sitcom where a man was in the bathroom explaining to his young son how to shave while he himself did so in the mirror. And to my amazement he told the boy to first shave with the grain (down) and THEN shave against the grain! I had never tried this, nor heard of it being done that way before. I always assumed you must shave one way or the other and never considered doing both in proper sequence.

So, I tried it, and it works1 I can now shave extra smooth every day if I like with no skin irritation! I'm 56 years old and have been shaving for at least 36 years, and I'm only now figuring this out? How strange the way we learn, and don't learn, at the whim of life.

[J.D. March 29, 2019]

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Religious "Management"

As anyone who reads this blog should know, I don't profess or subscribe to any organized religious belief system. I believe only in what has been given to me personally to believe, and I hold that belief above all others, not because I think it is the "true" or "right" belief, but because it is MINE, and mine for a reason.

That being said (and hopefully understood), I have engaged the "Religious Services"-program here (USP Terre Haute) in order to get permission to obtain certain so-called "religious items" that are consistent with my PERSONAL beliefs. As a consequence, it seems I have been formally registered by the BOP as "Pagan" and associated with "Wicca" (i.e. people who practice "magic" and call themselves "witches" and such), all because I ordered (through the "Religious Services"-program) a deck of Tarot-cards that are consistent with my "belief" in Jungian synchronicity (i.e. I believe there are no "coincidents" and that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and these "reasons" are connected and related to apparently "random" events, such as the order of cards in a shuffled deck). In fact, the Tarot-deck I ordered uses artwork that was directly inspired by Carl Jung's "archetype"-studies, which Jung himself relates back to synchronicity, which is the reason I ordered them.

Before I ordered the Tarot-cards, I had been "associated" with "Asatru", because of a "religious pendent" I ordered to honor my belief (and also as Jung believed based on his own studies and experience - which he considered "science", and not a belief system) that symbols can represent and influence the "synchronistic" coincidences that we experience. I chose a small pewter pentagram with a howling wolf. The pentagram is a historically very positive symbol that has long represented our "journey" through life (as a cycle that repeats from birth-to-rebirth), and the wolf represents Fenrisulven in the Norwegian tradition.

All this is very consistent with my beliefs, and though it corresponds (synchronistically!) with certain belief systems (such as Wicca, Asatru, not to mention Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and too many others to say) it was the (Christian) "chaplain" in charge of the "religious services"-program here who "associated" me with various religious groups, not me. And in so doing, I was allowed to participate in the Asatru Ceremonial meal" last year (they brought an extra tray of food to my cell that other "non-Asatru"-prisoners did not get), which I genuinely appreciated in a "spiritual" sense because the meal represented a "synchronistic" event that corresponded meaningful with other events in my life at the time.

So, this year I decided that I'd like to participate in the Asatru "celebration" again, and sent an "electronic message" (intra-net e-mail) to the chaplain requesting to be allowed to participate. But, as the attached image (of my request and the chaplain's response), I was rejected essentially because of the Tarot-cards I bought.

I spoke to the chaplain himself when he made his rounds here on death row, and I asked him how he could justify telling me how I am allowed to practice what I believe. He replied by saying he was only doing his job "managing religious services" so they are not abused or otherwise taken advantage of. I started to tell him how hypocritical such "management" was, but realized quickly that I wasn't just challenging his ideology, but the very nature and premise of his chosen profession. So I interrupted myself and told him that I "accepted" his decision with reservations. And then a few days later I attempted to "spell out" my reservations for him in another "e-mail" to Religious Services (see attached image). It has now been several weeks, and the chaplain has yet to either respond to or even acknowledge my e-mail.

[J.D. January 6, 2019]

Monday, August 13, 2018

No Shit Sherlock

As I've said before, I can't really say too much about what really happens around here, out of respect for others' privacy, but mostly because a lot goes on that is "against the rules" and I don't want to stir up any shit.

But, I can tell you a little about the stupid shit that happens. A couple of months ago, two of the old men on the range, a black man and a white man, both obviously prejudice, who were celled next to each other (so only a cinder-block wall separated them) got into an argument over the "noise" the other was making (and thus being "disrespectful"). The argument became quite verbose and involved the usual impotent threats of death and violence.

I've noted that it is only the less intelligent sort who end up arguing like that. The rest just laugh at them (and also laugh rather than argue themselves as well). So it was all nothing as usual, until the white guy decided to report the black for threatening him and "keeping him awake at night" (this went on for several days, btw!). Then the black was moved, but before he moved, he decided to decorate his cell with his own feces.

Normally the black is a fastidiously clean person, but in his mind, smearing shit all over the cell walls and floor (and in the shower) was the only way he could "hurt" the white guy for being a "rat". He actually announced (several times) so everyone could hear that he expected the white guy he was mad at to have to clean up his shit the next time they moved cells.

But, that's not what happened, of course. Instead the guards ordered one of the "orderlies" (trustees) to clean the cell instead, which he did describing the mess in graphic detail as he did so we could all enjoy the madness together.

And that's just typical shit that happens in places like this, where a man's illusion of power and control is so hampered by reality that they will resort to extreme stretches of the imagination in order to maintain their illusion, as both of these men did (one by smearing shit all over, and the other by being a "rat"). I feel fortunate that my own illusions don't require so much external maintenance.

[J.D. August 2, 2018]

"Child Porn": Final Update

My name is Joseph E. Duncan III. I am on Federal "death row" at the Terre Haute, IN USP (prison) for kidnapping, raping, and murdering children. If you've read this blog, then you already know that a few years ago my fiancée sent me a picture of a famous French child model named Thylane Blondeau, who is known for her very provocative pictures in popular magazines, such as Vogue.

My fiancée had found the picture in fact on Vogue Magazine's website, and she printed some off to send me as part of a discussion we were having about the way children are sexualized in popular media.

I received the letter with these pictures through regular inmate mail. The envelope had been opened, and (presumably) the contents had been inspected and found acceptable. I had no reason to think the pictures were not allowed, nor that they should have been restricted. In one of the pictures, little miss Blondeau was indeed shirtless, and posing in a pair of pants in her signature provocative way. But, the girl was clearly prepubescent, and as flat-chested as any boy would be at the same age, so I figured, reasonably, that the prison policy against having pictures of women's breasts did not apply. I was wrong.

When a guard found this picture in my cell he wrote me up for having "child porn". The guard said in his "Incident Report" (disciplinary action) that I had violated rule #305 "Possession of anything not authorized and not issued through regular institutional channels".

Obviously, the picture had been issued to me, after being inspected by staff in the mail-room, and I still had the letter it came in to prove it (the letter itself clearly references and describes the pictures enclosed as they were being discussed). But, I was found "guilty" by the DHO (Disciplinary Hearing Officer) and harshly sanctioned (120 days loss of commissary, visiting, and phone privileges, plus a $75 fine - which happened to be all the money I had at that time!).

So I appealed over and over again. My main issue was that I was found "guilty" for something the policy itself says explicitly I was not guilty for. The picture was issued to me through regular prison mail, and I had no reason to think it was not "authorized" accordingly.

Nonetheless, I lost one appeal after another, for reasons that became even more ridiculous than the original incident report! The regional office claimed that the picture does show a "female breast" even if it is "undeveloped"... seriously? And even if it did show a real woman's breast (fully developed), the fact remains that it was handed to me by a prison guard passing out mail, and the envelope was opened and contents inspected... per policy, so I had no reason to think it was not authorized (there is no policy that "forbids" prisoners to have pictures of women's breasts, only a policy that requires the warden to restrict such pictures coming in through the mail. So if any policies were violated it was by the "warden", not me!)

All of my appeals fell on deaf ears, until the warden at some point decided that because it was my first "incident report" (ever) that it should have been handled at the "unit level" (UDC instead of DHO hearing). So they found me guilty again, at another hearing, ignoring again all the facts and evidence, not to mention rules, policies and Federal laws that I presented as "evidence" at my hearing that I had done nothing wrong.

After several years appealing (in order to "exhaust my institutional remedies"), I eventually tried to take it to a Federal judge by filing a Habeas Corpus in Federal court. But the judge quickly dismissed my complaint, stating that as long as the disciplinary action does not cause me to serve more time (which it can't because my sentence is "death"), then the prison can punish me however they like, and the court (judge) has no jurisdiction.

Of course that's not true either. But, I don't have the legal prowess nor financial resources (it would cost about $400 to appeal the judge's dismissal, and/or proceed under a different legal avenue... and new "prison litigation" reform laws require prisoners to pay the full amount of such fees, regardless of any "forma pauperis" status).

So, once more the System has proven to me that I have no "rights", and that "they" can punish me however and whenever they like, regardless of any rules or laws that pretend to prevent them from doing so. And once more I ponder how they could ever expect me to "respect" them or their "System" of so-called "law and order", which has only proven itself to be anything but what it pretends.

The System does what it wants, and then uses the premise of "justice" as an excuse. The "good guys" are the real "bad guys", and us "bad guys" are just a bunch of beaten down dogs with little choice but to bite back whenever we can in order to defend ourselves. Thus the System propagates...

[J.D. August 1, 2018]

P.S. If you think I deserve to be punished "unfairly" because of what I did to children then you are using the exact same excuse that all "do-gooders" use when they do "evil"... judgment and condemnation. There's nothing "wrong" with having an opinion. But when you impose your opinion upon others, it becomes a judgment that can never be "right". I would know.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prison movies for December 2017

"The Dark Tower" (2017) - Dec 30
"The Emoji Movie" (2017) - Dec 29
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (2017) - Dec 25
"Spiderman: Homecoming" (2017) - Dec 23
"Churchill" (2017) - Dec 22
"Wish Upon" (2017) - Dec 16
"The Mummy" (2017) - Dec 15
"Denial" (2017) - Dec 9
"Pelé" (2017) - Dec 8
"Little Men" (2016) - Dec 2
"Batman and Harley Quinn" (2017) - Dec 1

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Stench of Our Understanding

We have not posted anything for a while because we have been contemplating the direction and purpose of our blog. We have always wanted this to be no more than an honest and open exposition of Joseph Duncan's thoughts and experiences, as a kind of glimpse into the mind of a human being that many call "monster". The idea - the hope - has always been that by doing this, then perhaps those who are ready will find for themselves that we are them, and that the only monsters in this world are the ones we imagine, and create for ourselves.

But it has come to our attention that by iterating with singular first person pronouns, we are inevitably giving the impression that this blog is about Joseph Duncan, when it has never been about him at all. His mind is no more than a psychological sponge that has soaked up the dross and drit exuded by all of us. The Fifth Nail has only ever endeavored to squeeze the contents of this metaphorical sponge onto the page, and let the pattern that emerges be read like an inkblot which says more about the person seeing it than it does about the one who has made the stain.

So from now on we will speak only using plural pronouns as often as we can in order to emphasize that this blog is not about one person. We will also attempt to shift our focus more on expressing our thoughts in a more general form, so they can be seen as thoughts coming from a sponge that has been used to wipe society's ass, and not from the mind of some "evil monster" that we imagine in order to convince ourselves that we're not the one's to blame for the mess. But prisons are the outhouses of the culture we live in, so we have no one but ourselves to blame for the offensive "smell" that wafts from within. Everyone has to shit, so no one is "innocent". So take a good whiff, my friend, because it is both you and I that are making this stench, not just "me".

In Haiti, workers empty communal outhouses at night and in the dark to avoid public scrutiny and humiliation.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Old Rules, New Rules, and the Rule of Law?

Last month, the warden announced (via Inmate Bulletin) that the original inmate property limits would be once more strictly enforced after a hiatus that had been going on for longer than I've been here (over at least the last nine years and probably much longer). The limit imposed by policy is five books per inmate, 25 personal letters, 1 laundry bag, etc. etc.. It is a well-known prison "management" tactic to relax certain policies so prisoners will take the leeway for granted. And then, when a "correctional staff" member needs to unofficially "punish" a prisoner, they can do so by arbitrarily "enforcing" the policy that has been previously unenforced, thus legally imposing a "hardship" on the prisoner otherwise not allowed by numerous state and Federal regulations. So, the fact that the warden is suddenly deciding that the leeway on inmate property limits is no longer necessary, must be an indication that he thinks he can control inmate behavior by some other means.

Of course it is all only a delusion of power and control in the first place. Regardless of what rules, laws, or regulations that are enforced or not enforced, the ultimate truth remains the same: You can't control what other people think, and if you can't control what they think, then you can't control what they do. They might let you think you are controlling them (when inmates do this, it is called "manipulative criminal behavior" - but, of course, the only reason we (prisoners) do it, is to avoid getting punished arbitrarily - and any prisoner will tell you that all punishment in prison, whether official or unofficial, is completely arbitrary; so the "the trick" is to avoid it and the only way to do that is to become "manipulative"), but, in the end, the only thing the warden and other "officials" ever manage to do is to sustain an illusion of control that serves to justify their fat paychecks and allows them to rationalize the inhuman ways they treat other human beings.

This latest decision to suddenly start enforcing a previously unenforced impingement on our humanity is a pretty good example of how this illusion is created. Here in the SCU (Special Confinement Unit, a.k.a. "Death Row") in Terre Haute, IN, we are confined to our cells 23/7 (or very close to 24/7 for someone like me who rarely bothers to ask to be cuffed up and escorted to a box-shaped cage with a ball in it that they call "recreation"), our books and letters are the only things we have that connect us to the outside (a.k.a. "real") world. Sure, we have small color T.V.s, but the program selection is controlled completely by the prison and consists almost entirely of brain-numbing (and "washing") cop shows and Christian propaganda (a.k.a. "feel good") programs. Only in my books do I find useful information that encourages me to think for myself rather than let others think (and form opinions) for me. And only through my letters do I get to discuss those ideas and exchange opinions with other people who are interested in the same sorts of things I am.

So the limit of five books in my cell, with no access to the Internet or even a prison library (see: Note 1) very effectively and quite literally cuts me off from my most valuable source of "intellectual stimulation" (as they call it). And the 25 letters restriction reduces my ability to effectively and meaningfully correspond with my family and friends by limiting the depth of our "discussions" to what I can retain in my immediate memory (plus 25 letters), which isn't very much.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, because of the leeway on the number of books and letters we have been allowed to keep in the past, I had previously been able to keep a small collection of reference books in my cell (20 to 25 books at most) on various subjects, from Quantum Physics to Religions of the world, including a few books on how to draw, and even several books I am using to study foreign language. Learning another language is very important to me, even if it's the last significant thing I learn before I die, because it is the language of my one true love - the person who my entire life was meant to acknowledge (yes, my "soul-mate" - which even I have!) So, I will keep three books to help me learn my love's native (human) language, which leaves me with only two more books that I am allowed to have. If I want to have something to read, then I must use these two slots for "current interests" and essentially get rid of all my "reference" books, including my NIV/KJV Bible, my Webster's College Dictionary, My Philosophy and Religion Dictionary, all of my other "Religion" books (Hindu, Zen, etc.) and all my "textbooks" (calculus, biology, physics, etc.) that I use as additional reference while reading (I generally don't keep a book as a "reference" unless I actually reference it frequently).

But, worse still is the restriction imposed upon the numbers of personal letters I am allowed to keep. My fiancée writes me at least twice a week, and has been for the last several years. I've already gone through all of my letters from her alone in the past and gotten rid of more than half (just to reduce the number of letters to a few manila envelopes full). But now I must go through those and select fewer than 25? (I'd like to keep some letters from my mother and a few friends, too.) That's not just heartbreaking, it's heartrending. It takes away my most valuable possessions, and reduces my connection to those whom I love (and whom I know love me) to what I can hold in just one hand.

The result, of course, is a powerful urge to revel against the "authority" that is causing me this pain. It is an urge for retribution that all prisoners feel. It is what drives them to be so "manipulative", and to find other ways to keep their humanness alive. It was this "urge" that ultimately drove me to do the insanely violent things I did that got me on "Death Row" in the first place. And even though I knew my "retribution" would put me here - and subject me to more of their "delusions of power and control" over my life (and what I think). To me, the satisfaction of proving they controlled nothing (they didn't stop me from raping and killing - all they ever did was make me want to rape and kill even more!) was (and still is) worth it.

So, I'm not "crying" about the way I'm being treated now. Make no mistake, I'm only trying to point out the way all their efforts to control me, and those "like" me (other human beings who don't value what "they" value") only end up doing the exact opposite of what they contend (and pretend). It's not about me or what I did, or what "they" do to me at all. It is a "mentality", a "sickness" that spreads and contaminates all of us. The wardens in this world (as a metaphor and literally) will always seek to rationalize their power and justify their insanity. They will push for more and more "control" over their "wards", as they have always done and will continue to do (see: Note 2). The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has recently imposed a restriction on prisoners in Texas prohibiting them from "maintaining active social media accounts for the purpose of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third-party or otherwise". In other words, Texas wards - in response to the threat that the truth (information) about conditions in prison imposes upon their illusion (and delusion) of power and control - have responded (as they always have in the past) by once more attempting to "gag" the prisoners. Whether they succeed or not will be telling (it is, of course, being challenged by numerous "human rights" groups). If they can get away with such a restriction (and it's simply a matter of time before they can get away with anything they want, because the illusion must be maintained at any cost), then it will spread quickly to other states and I'll soon be restricted even from expressing my thoughts here on this blog. Why? Well, like they say, if you have to ask... then you're not likely to understand the answer.

[J.D. May 29, 2017]

(1) There have also been newly imposed limits on the total number of books available for ILL (Inter-library loan) requests, which was the only already extremely limited library access we had.

(2) It is an established tactic of those in authority (a.k.a. "Big Brother") to instigate disobedience before they attempt to institute a new and potentially controversial means of control. This not only creates a kind of distraction, but it also serves as a demonstrable justification for the new rule of law that they intend to impose.